Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 9th

So I just moved from old to ancient in the mission. I have officially crossed the 18 month mark and that apparently makes me an old geezer. I feel exactly like I did last week so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about but the missionaries in my zone are giving me a hard time about it and I guess there isnt much i can do. 
So this week was good for us. Unfortunately we had some investigators go on vacation but we are finding and teaching new people and we are really seeing a lot of promise from many of them. Michael is progressing well. He is working hard on giving up his cigarettes and his really excited for his baptism. He will going on the young men campout next week which is going to be really good for him. We have really been doing everything possible to help him give up that problem. He is making progress and he is doing well. We are getting everything set up for the next transfer. If things go well, we are going to baptize a lot next transfer. I really hope I'm here for it all. (Transfers are 2 weeks away so dont worry about them). 
I have been really happy working with my zone. I work really hard as a zone leader and it seems like people really appreciate my efforts. I don't always see the results I would like but I think that we are seeing progress out of the missionaries and that should lead to more tangable results. The Lord knows what He wants us to learn and how to teach it to us, I just try to do everything that I am asked to do and then do as much more as possible. I really enjoy it and I feel like I am more productive here in the mission than anywhere else. The Lord really is in charge of this work and we are seeing his hand more and more as we keep working towards what He would have us do. 
Things are going well and I am happy. I have really terrible allergies which are bothering me but other than that, I cant complain about anything here in the mission. 
I love you all a ton, 
Elder McNeil

January 2nd

Well, I would like to start off saying "Happy New Year". It is now the year 2012, and, it might just be the mission bubble speaking but everything still seems exactly the same. I dont know why but I was expecting to feel older or feel strange or just feel something but another year has come without me even realizing it. It has been a great year for me. I have learned and grown a lot in these past 12 months and plan to keep up with that trend. I also think about how strange this year was. There were lots of wonderful things that happened and many less fortunate but I am just grateful that I had this year to be humbled, to be taught, and to become a better missionary. This year is now my time to shine as a instrument in the Hands of God. Obviously I'm not perfect but as I have looked over my life, I sure am a heck of a lot better now than I was a year ago and 3 years ago and 8 years ago I was a punk little snot-nosed little smart mouth. I am sorry you had to live through all of that. 
Anyway, things went well this week. We spent a lot of this week working with Andrea, Javiera, and Ignacia. They are a family who is really great who I totally would not of have even taken the risk of teaching a year ago. Andrea is a mother who is trying to quit smoking but is having a lot of success. Her two daughters are 15 and 12 and they totally were too embarazed to share with us at first but once they got to know us, they not only started listening to us because they thought we were pretty but are now very excited about their baptism in the next few weeks and they know the gospel well.
 Also we are teaching a wonderful teenager named Michael. We are also teaching his mom who is blind and had her kidneys removed and suffers from many other health problems. We showed up in exactly the right moment. Michael was starting to get involved in somethings that he shouldnt have and was getting into trouble and now he tells everyone how excited he is to get baptized. Things are going well as far as work goes. 
The zone is improving as well. We are working really hard on getting them to the level where they need to be to have success. Things are awesome.

I love you all so much and hope you all have an amazing year. (We will even be able to celebrate New Years together this year... wow that thought makes me feel dizzy and blown away). 
Elder McNeil

December 26th

So my letter is also going to be pretty short. I really enjoyed talking yesterday. It was actually great to see more people than I expected. it would have been nice if Cheryl could have been there but it was great to see everyone. I was really happy to see Kerri because I hadnt even seen a picture of her in the last 2 and a half years. 
So i woke up this morning really sick. Actually I was already a little bit sick when we were talking but now I'm feeling a little worse. My chest hurts and I was coughing up goo all night so I am going to get that all checked out. If I'm still sick tomorrow I am going to head over to the doctor. Dont let any of that worry you. Things are going well and I am really excited for this next upcoming week. I know things are only going to keep getting better. The Lord doesnt do anything to knock us down or try to restrain us. We are those who put limits upon ourselves. 
Hey sorry, I am not feeling too great to I am going to keep this short. 
I love you all and hope everything is going great.
Elder McNeil

December 19th

Well, first things first. I will be on skype at 7pm Chilean time on sunday and then we will be able to talk. We have a full hour to talk and I'm sure after the first 30 minutes i will be able to speak english mostly normal. I have a lot of stories that I could tell you all but you might need to remind me about some of them. If you can, try to remind me to tell you the story about Soledad, Carmen, and.... well, just remind me to tell you some of my fun stories. 
This week was a lot better than last. We had to deal with transfers which was a very long, and somewhat irritating process but that is what happens when you are as far away from concepcion as physically possible, but everyone arrived okay with out any real problems. Also, the division of the zone went well. The sisters who are now in the other zone were really sad because they really liked the zone  from last transfer and they got really used to us as zone leaders and having to get to know the new ones was a little sad for them. 
We found some really great, new investigators, some of which came to church and are really excited to keep progressing. We are really happy with what is happening. We needed to start to teach new people and the Lord has blessed us with a lot of new people. We are still a little disappointed to have a "dry month" this month but we are really excited for January because we know we will have some baptisms then. Curico is just a great city and the members are wonderful. I am so happy to be here right now. The only down side is that it is really, really hot right now. I am sleeping with just a single bed sheet because I am so hot at night, but hey, the heat will pass so I guess its not that big of a deal. 
So, Kerri is dating. I am really glad to hear that. That makes me the only single person in the family! Thats cool, I am gonna keep it that way for at least another 7 months! Ha, well, thats something we can be pretty certain about.
So I got another package from you. It was the one with the ties. Thanks for that. SO you might be wondering when the package I am sending to you will get there. Well.... about that... I bought the gifts but I have'nt actually had time to send them to you so I might just hold on to them as souviners for now and then give them to you later... sorry. 
So this are going great and we will talk more on sunday about everything. 
See you on sunday!
Love ,
Elder McNeil

December 12th

Well, it is great to know that you had as plesant of an experience as possible at the funeral. I've never really like funerals but it is always great to hear the wonderful stories that people have to tell about their experiences with those who have passed away. 
So this week I dont really have a lot of news to tell you. This week is transfer week but I am staying for atleast one transfer more. The only real news is that the mission is spliting the zone so I no longer have to take care of 20 missionaries. We are actually going to have two zones of 12 missionaries each and in the next few months, the mission will be opening new sectors in each zone. The missionaries are working hard and we are seeing results.
SO this week was probably one of the most disappointing of my mission. We had a number of investigators turn their backs to the church and decide to not keep progressing. We now have a very small teaching pool but now we are going to only teach gold. It was a humbling experience but now we have a new perspective on what we need to do. It is going to be hard but we are going to fix things here in the sector. It will just require a little bit of time.
This week also had some funny moments, the best of which is worth telling. So we left with a recent convert to go visit some families in our sector. We were walking and talking about our great plans and who were going to teach and we arrived at the first house. We saw that the gate was open so we politely walked into the front yard when, out of no-where the gate closed behind us. We then found out that the gate was automatic and could only be opened from inside the house. We also quickly realized that there was nobody home. We tried calling the family. They didnt answer their phones. We tried to find a way into the  house to open the gate and leave, but the house was impenetrable. I decided that it would be best to jump the fence and keep going but my comp was not going to risk it (he is a lot bigger than I am). We ended up waiting for more than an hour for some one to help (by this point in time I had already jumped the fence and working out how my comp would be able to get out). In the end, the family showed up and thought it was hysterical what happened and were really grateful that we were the people who got stuck in there and not anybody with alternative motives. That was an experience worth remembering. 
Anyway, I am sorry I dont really have any other news for you. I have decided that I am going to change my major when I go back to BYU but that still is a ways away. So things are going well. I hope you are happy and healthy and enjoy the time you will have with Mike and Kerri.
Elder McNeil

December 5th

Sorry, it is my turn to do numbers again so this will have to be a little shorter than usual. So, it is really sad to hear about uncle ken. I know that this is a really unfortunate time of year for some thing so sad to happen. I never really thought about how hard it must be to celebrate Christmas without a member of the family. When Mike and Kerri were on their missions it never really seemed to be that big of a deal, but Christmas without a child or parent is something that must be so painful. 
I am really glad to hear that is seems that everything is being handled well. I am really glad to hear how dignified he acted due to the toughness of his trials. It really is incredible what you said Dad about how he treated his calling as he was being released as a bishop.
Things are going well in Curicó. There is always a lot of work to do. I was a little sick a part of this week but you just have to work through it. There is no reason to let anything slow me down. I am going to have an entire life time to complain about how I feel and to take a day or two off work but at least here in the mission I am working off of borrowed time. 
I hope things go well during these next few weeks as you are getting things prepared for Christmas. Enjoy this time of year. There are a few houses here that have Christmas lights up but it is the middle of summer and almost a hundred degrees so it hardly feels like December. Right now also happens to be the peak of Cherry season. The cherries here just happen to be amazing but on the other hand some of our best investigators just fell of the face of the planet because they work in the processing plants. Well, we found some new people to replace them for now but we definitely going to go back and visit some of those people once their schedule clears up.  
Well, I hope you all the best. We will all miss uncle Ken but we know is already getting to work on the other side. 
I love you all a ton,
Love ,
Elder McNeil

November 28th

Well, I am glad to hear that you have been enjoy you nice, long thanksgiving vacation. I am also really glad to hear about Mike and Cabrina. I knew when I started to mission that I would hear something along the lines of them having a kid or two (twins??!!). That is going to be too much fun. One thing that is really throwing me for a loop right now is that y'all will be moving into the new house, a new nephew will be about to join the family and I will be getting hime from the mission all in the same month or so. I know that it is quite a bit down the road still but when you know, you need to tell me exactly when you will be moving in so I can tell the mission about which stake I will be released in. Ugh, I dont fell old in the mission but people sure like acting like I am. That has been a little annoying but I guess it could be much worse. 
So, things are going really well. We have a number of investigators who just need to make that last little push to get over the last hump and get baptized. During december we can have anywhere between 2 and 6 baptisms. That would be really great. I really love my sector. We are always finding really great people to teach and the people have been really recpetive these past few weeks. Now we just have to get them over the last little bit of opposition so they can get baptized, which seems to be harder for me now than in the past. I feel like these last few weeks have required me to be the best possible missionary possible. Better than I've ever been before. I won't lie, I feel like I dropped the ball in a few situations and I have made some mistakes, like all missionaries do, but I never stop learning. I've learned to not beat myself up over my mistakes but that doesn't mean that I've lowered my standard of excellence. 
We are teaching a really great couple named Rogelio and Marioli. They are 24 and married and everytime I teach them, it reminds me of Mike and Cabrina. They are a very young married couple that are trying to establish themselves in Curicó. It would be good if you could pray from them. They came to church yesterday and they liked it and I would love to see them baptized as soon as possible. 
Transfers are in two week but there are already some rumors and plans about what president wants to do in Curicó and I'm not sure how much more time I will be working with the investigators that I have been working with for the past 2.5 months. It would be great to see some of the baptized before transfers.   
So, it is really sad to hear about Ken but I think it is the right thing for all of you to do. Martin will be back out in the mission field soon enough but he needs to be there with his family. I hope that you will be able to take your trip to Japan and Taiwan soon but you need to be with the family. Also, I would like to thank Kerri for writing me. It was really nice to hear from her.
Sorry, I dont really have any more time but I love you all a ton and hope everything goes super well this week.
Elder McNeil

November 22nd

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the turkey and football and... Disneyland? Well, that seems like a step up from the Hill Country Hyatt. Let me know how Disney does Thanksgiving, I really want to know. (Mikey Mouse shaped Turkey?)
Well, this week's letter wont be as long or as detailed as last week's (It was my turn to send in the zone's numbers again and I still need to write my mission president), but things are going great like always. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I have never, ever been as tired as I have been as a missionary. Things are always wonderful and generally work out like we want them too but when I sleep, I pass out! I know that was really random, but it is true. I actually want to know if Mike and Kerri felt the same way or if that is just me. 
We had a really good experience this week going out to a more rural part of our area called Rauco. Rauco is one of the areas that the mission is planning on opening in the near future. We went out to see what it was like and to do a few visits. The area is beautiful. It is surrounded by gorgeous hills and we taught some really wonderful people there.
It is really cool being a missionary at this moment in time. I feel like we are on the verge of seeing incredible changes in the world of missionary work. The missionaries that are arriving are a heck of a lot better than I will ever be, they are more prepared and I expect to see incredible amounts of growth here in the mission and in the world. I am really glad that I get the chance to take part in all these interesting new changes. 
Well, I would love to have Martin's email so I could shoot him a quick email. I understand how hard things must be right now for him but the Lord always knows whats best. We cant change his will, so the best possible alternative is to accept it. I know that all things happen for a reason and that everything will work out for the best. I will keep Uncle Ken and Martin in my prayers. 
Tell Kerri to write me! It has been a very long time since I've recieved anything from her. I need to know how she's doing! ALSO.... there is no way she can even think about getting serious with anyone without atleast telling me his name, were he is from, or any of that other stuff that people like to know about the people who are dating thier siblings. And if she even thinks about getting married before I get home from the mission... Oh my goodness, will there be some problems. Sorry about that little rant, tell Kerri that she needs to write me ASAP! 
Also, how's the house?
Well next week, I have to go to another meeting in Chillán so you might not get my email until a little later in the day. 
Well, I love you all a ton and will keep you informed on everything here in Chile.
Love ,
Elder McNeil

Novmenber 15th

Well, I am sorry that I forgot to tell you last week that i wouldnt be sending you a letter until Tuesday this week. We had a crazy, crazy week. So I mentioned that special mission conference that we were going to have. Well, we had it. We chartered a bus to take all of the missonaries from Curicó and Talca (47 in all) down to Concepcion becuase we were going to have a "special guest". We got on the bus a midnight, and started the five hour ride down. We slept on the bus and at 6.30 went into the stake center in Conce. The mission bought Dunkin Doughnuts for everyone and then we freshened up and sat anxiously in the chapel to see who would arrive. The doors opened and Elder Quentin L Cook and his wife walked in. He was with Elder Richards of the Area presidency, his wife and president Humphrey. I have never seen so many missionaries quickly brush off any lint and fix thier hair all at once. We wanted to look nice!
Elder Cook shook each of our hands and talked to us about many different things, but what really struck me the most was what he said about how missionaries are "Branch/Ward Builders". He told a story about an experience he had recently in Vietnam, where the church will have missionaries in the near future. When the Vietnamiese officials asked what the missionaries would do, Elder Cook said that their purpose is to "build branches" which then in turn bless the people around them. The officials where so struck with what he said that they said that they would love to have missionaries there in the thier furture. That really hit me. My sector here in Curicó is gigantic. There is actually a plot of land that the church has purchased in a part of the area for a chapel when there are enough members to split the unit. Right now we need to increase attendance in chruch from about 140 every sunday to about 250+ members to build that chapel and split the ward. I am working my heart out in that part of our sector because every time I walk past that plot of land, I see the chapel that will be built there one day. I see families walking to that chapel with thier children, the youth playing soccer, and the relief society carrying materials to can peaches and strawberries. I dont think I have ever had a vision so clear of what the outcome of my work can and should be. We are working really, really hard. We are find golden investigators. Heck, if they aren't golden, we arent teaching them! I really feel like I am putting my heart into this sector and the future I see is beautiful. It wont be easy but I want to do everything I can to be a "Ward Builder". Actually in this stake, in the past 10 months we have baptized what is equivalant to a ward of 135 or so people. We are also seeing a higher retention rate than anywhere else I've been in the mission. If the mission Chile Concepción has a city of Zion, I'm in it and it is beautiful.
Anyway, more about me personally. We had a wonderful baptism on sunday. Her name is Angie and she is 12. She lives with her Grandparents who were baptized in Santiago about 13 years ago. Her grandparents have been inactive for a few years but about 4 months ago they moved here to Curicó. Last month, we were doing some tracting and we saw two girls walking towards us. We stopped them to ask if they knew a less active family in that street. They didnt, but Angie told us that we needed to pass by her house and share with them. Since then, the grandpa has changed jobs so he can attend church more often, his wife is making many efforts to read the scriptures and pray and Angie has started become a key member of the Young womens program of the ward. Sunday just happened to be Stake Conference and President Humphrey came to speak in the meeting. He heard about our baptism and was really excited to see it. Our bishop acted particularly profession during the baptism and President then gave a special message afterward. It was amazing.
Monday (yesterday) we had interviews which was wonderful as well. There are many changes coming in the mission. In the next 4.5 months the amount of missionaries in the mission will increase by 30 or so. Our job right now is to prepare things for when those missionaries arrive. We have to prepare a lot of sectors that will be opening soon and taking some time to visit some pueblos and small cities to make lists of future investigators for when missionaries arrive. We have a lot of work to do but I find myself just smiling and loving it all. I was taught by my trainer that "in the mission, not everyday is going to be Christmas" which is a valid thought but that doesnt mean that I can't pretend it is.
So I got one of the packages that y'all sent. I was really grateful for the socks, and the face wash. As a side note, I bought some Dr Pepper this week and a supermarket here in Chile called Jumbo. Wow, I really forgot how good it is. We actually got together as a zone today and we made Dr Pepper Floats (there wasnt any Root beer left there so we went ahead with the best alternative). I really hope everything goes well this week and that you can prepare everything this week so you can all relax and enjoy your Thanksgiving. I love you all a ton.
Love ,
Elder McNeil

November 6th

Well, I never heard anything about any protests. For the most part, the news I get here has to do with natural disasters and/or some students protesting in Santiago. For the most part, things have been pretty tranquilo but thanks for letting me know that yall are doing well.
So, Grandma isnt doing very well? Well, I'm really not surprised but I think she will be able to adjust fairly well. Mom thanks for being a trooper and doing this for your parents. Commandment Five of the Ten does leave you the promise that if you honor your parents, your days will be lengthened on the Earth. I know that Mike and Kerri are seeing what you are doing and it means a lot to us. We will always remember the way the both of our parents took care of thier parents and we will always try to live up to your examples. 
SOOOOOOO.... As far as news from here in the mission. My new comp is named Elder Carvajal and he is from Antafogasta Chile (that is almost as far North as people live). He is one of the first generation of the 18 year old missionaries that are serving here in Chile. He is actually a rapper and a semi-pro basketball player here in Chile. He has a lot of energy and is just a really good guy. Once he is trained and has a little bit of experience here in the mission, he is going to be an awesome leader.
This week we had a wonderful baptism. Carmen got baptised which was awesome and she was so happy. I sent a photo of us at her baptism. Also, this next week we are expecting another baptism of a teenager named Angie. Things are going great. This next upcoming week we are going to have to do quite a bit of finding people because our teaching pool is kind of stale but we having a great time. The ward is excited to work with us because of the success they've been seeing and we are going to keep working as hard as we can. I want to really help this ward and I feel like I am seeing some great things happening and we should be seeing more success down the road.
So, I'll let yall know about when I get those packages. I am just about as far away as possible from the office of the mission but if you just sent them I'll be getting them soon.
This thursday a General Authority is coming to the mission which is going to be great. President says that there is a 50 percent chance that an Apsotle will speak. We were actually put in charge of chartering a bus to take three zones down to Conce for the meeting. Actually, we had to pay a little bit up front so if you notice that I took some money out of my bank account it was to help 50 missionaries get down to see a General Authority and the mission will pay me back. I just wanted to let yall know so you didnt think I was buying a bunch of crazy stuff.
So I love yall a ton. Hope yall can get back to San Jose as soon as possible. 
Love ,
Elder McNeil

October 30th

Well, another transfer has come and gone. I have successfully finished my first cambio as a zone leader (and might I say, it was interesting). This might come as a shock to you all but I am going to train again. I am going to be a zone leader and a trainer and Elder Miller, the other zone leader is going to be doing the same thing. President has shown a lot of confidence in us and it shows. Both of the zone leaders training at the same time is almost unheard of. It has been a great few weeks and Pres is really liking what we are doing. Elder Davis was a great companion but now I get to have another son. It is going to be a lot of work but I now understand that the Lord hasn't been taking risks in asking me to do things, but that He understand very clearly what He wants and how to get it done. I just have to DO it. 
So this upcoming week we are going to have a baptism. I am really excited. Her name is Carmen. She has had many, many miracles that have helped her prepare to be baptized. We are also thinking that it will be really great for her 23 year old daughter who has been reading the gospel priciples book with carmen, and loves it, but has been a little too shy to share with us. We also have some other really great investigators who are going to be getting baptized in the next few weeks. I swear this sector is blessed! The Lord wants us to have a lot of success here. It is going to be a good place to train again. 
I am really loving the mission right now. I have no complaints, expect the heat, but it is only gonna get hotter. The ward is great. My converts are staying active. Also, next week we are having an all mission conference which only happens when there is a "Special Guest" and we are getting really excited for that. 
I love all a ton and hope everything goes well for you this week. I especially hope that you Mom can get back home as soon as possible. 
Elder McNeil

October 24th

So this week I bought a new memory card adaptor so I can actually send you photos this week. I know its been a long time but with as crazy as being a missionary is, sending your family photos gets put on the back burner. I'm sorry its been such a long time but I think you are really going to like the pictures. Some are from my old sector in Lirquén and a then there are a few newer ones from here in Curicó. You will see this pcitures and realize that I really am in the most beautiful place in the world!
Anyway, this week was really great. We have been able to really get this sector on its feet and it sure is going! The Lord really is blessing us with great people to teach and I am really happy with all the wonderful things that have been happening. We are going to have at least 2 baptisms in the next three weeks and it is also pretty likely that we will have 5 in the month of November. The Lord wants his missionaries to have success which is why we keep seeing miracles everyday.
So unfortunetly this week, it was my turn to do numbers again so I don't have much time left but I really want to let you know how much I love the mission. I know that right now the family is stressing out about Uncle Ken and Grandma and Grandpa Brew and also Grandpa McNeil but I feel like if I was there, things would be much more difficult for the entire family. Unfortunetly, when I finish the mission, we wont have any of those blessings that come to families with missionaries serving. I love it here, I love this work, don't worry about me or ask yourselves if I'm happy. I am very, very happy. 
As far as package stuff. I need face stuff and I was thinking beef jerky would be nice but I'm not picky. Send me whatever you want and it will be good enough for me. I love you all a ton.
Love ,
Elder McNeil

October 17th

So I got the package that you had sent me for halloween. Thanks for the candy and the Mr. Potatohead stuff. I really liked the stuff Kerri sent me from the other side of the world. Thanks for getting all of that for me for a random holiday. It was awesome.

So this week, we have seen a ton of miracles. We had a baptism this weekend which was probably the most spiritual baptism I have ever been to. We are also finding people who are super prepared to recieve us. I have some really good feelings about different things we are going to do in our sector and I think that we are going to keep seeing amazing things happening here everyday. We still have along way to go. I know that my sector needs to be a model for the rest of the zone and right now it is getting there but there is still much more that needs to happen for the sector to really be the way it needs to be. I am really greatful that the Lord puts us where He wants us to be. I cannot explain some of the things that have been happening here in this sector. We are just seeing marvilous things happening because the Lord really does direct this work. I know what the Lord wants from me and I know that it isn't going to come without passing through some trials but I am really excited to keep up the hard work and get things done. 
Sorry if this letter seemed short. I actually am not rushed or anything, i just feel like I've said what needs to be said. I am really happy and I can't wait to get back to work and see some more miracles happening around me. I love you all a ton and hope you forgive me for such a short letter.
Love ,
Elder McNeil 

October 10th

So I am getting a lot better at managing my time as a zone leader. I don't have a ton of time to write yall but I at least have enough. We had a really interesting week. We saw a lot of blessings and also quite a few challenges but that is to be expected in the mission. We are going to have a baptism this week which is really exciting! Soleded is the mom and soon to be mother in law of some recent converts here in the ward and she is really excited for her baptism this week. We also are working with some other really wonderful people and it is going to be great to see them start to progress. I really love the ward here. They are really wonderful people and I love getting the chance to work with them.
Today we went and saw probably one of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen. It is called Siete Tazas and is a series of pools connected by waterfalls. We also did some pretty cool hikes as a zone. We had decided that we want to have a really spritual experience on this trip so we told everyone to separate and pray in the forest around the waterfall. If going to the mountains and praying worked for the Prophets of Old, we thought why couldn't it help the zone be a little stronger. It totally felt like a "Waters of Mormon" moment and a lot of the missionaries were really grateful for the moment to really stop and feel the spirit. It was a really cool day. I am going to try and send pictures next week if I get the chance. 
So, I actually dont have my passport with me so I need to look that up and send it to you later but my diver's license number is F1752321. You might want to look around the house to see if you find a copy of my passport, you just have to make sure its my new one. The one I have now expires in 2020 if you are looking for that copy. I will try to send the number later this week but I really am not sure if I will have the time to do so. Will you have to send me a new card? Will I be able to use the card I have right now?
I also don't want you to get too worried about Christmas packages but if you will be sending me anything soon, I need more face stuff and I would also really like some good socks. I dont really want anything specific as far as food goes but a thing of beef jerky never hurts anyone. I dont think i'll be needing anything else that I can't buy here so dont go over the top with anything.
I love you all a ton and hope you are all doing really well.
Elder McNeil

October 3rd

So this week, I don't have to send in numbers so I have a lot more time to write you today. So, my first two weeks as zone leader have been really great. I have learned a lot about leadership in just a little bit of time. One of the most important things has been to love the people you are working with enough to let them make thier own decisions. I was really tired last week because we, as zone leaders, were trying way to hard to take care of everyone else's sectors, but after a little bit of training from more experienced missionaries and President, we started to take a very different approach to leadership. Yes, we are responsible for the zone but we need to focus primarily on setting a good example, strengthening our sector, then focusing on the district leaders and let them do the same for thier districts. In a zone of 22 missionaries, we can't do it all, but we don't have to.
So I am in really great ward called Bombero Garrido in a city named Curicó. It is hot and it is only spring which means that our summer is going to be an adventure. My comp is named Elder Davis and he is from Arizona. He only has about 6 months in the mission. I am actually not companions which the other Zone Leader which is interesting. HIs name is Elder Miller and is from Washington state and we live in the same house together which is great. I love living with other missionaries. It makes the mission a heck of a lot more interesting.
We have seen a ton of miracles in the our sector in the past few days which has been brilliant. I am now convinced, and the talks from conference affirm, that I have truly been foreordained to work with the people here in Curicó (investigators and missionaries). A woman named Agustina contacted us on the streets the other day and she has been passing through some really tough problems in her life but testifying to her about the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation brought a new light into her eyes and I see hope coming from her and her children. We also have another investigator named Soledad who has shared with missionaries for years but when she met me, she knew I was the missionary she has been waiting for all of this time and she is preparing to be baptized next week. 
I loved conference! So has Mike talked about children yet? There were a few very direct talks about the family and raising children (Sister Dalton calling the fathers to be more virtuous was probably the most direct and pointed talk I've ever heard a Sister give in conference. I was speechless). Also, there were a ton of great talks about missionary work. I loved the talk Elder Holland gave during priesthood. If I wasn't on the mission right now, that talk definetly whould have motived me to shape up and serve. I know you have a few more years to prepare for your mission but please prepare well, starting now if you haven't already. Also, how about those new temples!?!?! Another temple in Provo, the Congo, South Africa, Colombia, Paris... and Star Valley? It was a wonderful conference, one I don't think I will ever forget. We actually were having some techinical problems with the satilite so we watch conference in the family history center of the Stake center with 12 grinfos huddled around a single computer monitor to watch conference in english. That is something I wont forget... ever! I love the mission, even with all of its challenges, it is so good for everyone involved.
So I love you all a ton and really hope that everything goes well with everything you have to do. Mom good luck with the Halloween party. Hopefully everything turns out well with the house and that everything goes well for you in all that you are doing.
I love you all a lot and hope this letter finds you well.
Love ,
Elder McNeil

September 16th

I am super sorry but I actually dont have anytime to write you today. I am adjusting well to my new position as a zone leader but unfortunetly, it means I have NO time to do what I need to get done. It is really a lot of fun but I am always going back and forth, up and down, left and right, trying to get this zone going strong. I am ZL of the biggest zone in the mission and there is a lot that needs to get done. There are lots of great missionaries who are passing through some tough times and I am going to do everything I can to help them out.  I am super excited for conference this week. It might be my last chance to relax and take things slow and really feel the spirit as things get crazier in my life in the mission. I love the mission and I really like my new ward. Its named Bombero Garrido and it is really an awesome ward. Things are going great and we will be baptizing in a few weeks if things go well for us. I am sorry I dont have time to write anything else. I love you all a ton and hope to talk to y'all a little bit more next week. 
Love ,
Elder McNeil

September 19th

Thanks so much for the update on the house and about all the things that are going on there in CA.
Well this was a really crazy week for us here in Lirquén. We started the week off pretty normal, but like I said we would, Elder Richards of the Area Presidency came to visit us on Friday. It was a really great experience. All of the District and Zone leaders had to arrive at 7:45 for a special training session with Elder Richards and President Humphrey which was super cool. He talked a lot about not making the Gospel more complicated than it has to be. We spent over an hour just talking with him and having him teach us. My mind was blown. I was really impressed by everything he said and the spirit was incredibly strong. THEN we had a 5 hour zone conference where he spoke and taught us for awhile. It was pretty incredible having that chance. Being a missionary definetly comes with benefits. We only have amazing experiences everyday.
Well, friday was the conference and saturday was PDay. President changed our P-day because today is a national holiday so all the businesses are closed. Anyway, saturday our zone went to a beach and played Ultimate frisbee for most of the day. It was awesome and then in the afternoon we had our ward party for "el dieciocho" or Chilean Independence Day. The empanadas were really great and this ward is incredibly strong and a lot of fun. We played a ton of different games and just had a blast.
Sunday was the great big party! Well, for us we worked like normal but everyone else was partying it up! We had the normal meetings on sunday. I have a "manta de huaso" which is a traditional chilean pancho worn during the festivals. I secretly put it on durning one of the meetings and the members loved it. I might be remembered forever as the elder who came to church dressed as a huaso (but a classy one). I also sang in a special musical number which was pretty cool especially because the members were shocked when they heard me sing (especially when I sang really low notes). 
But the best thing that happened this sunday was the baptism of Ariel. Ariel is a great teenager and he is really excited to go on a mission with his cousin who is a newly reactived member. It was a great experience. 
Well, last night I got "the call". President Humphrey called to tell me that I am going to be a zone leader in a city named Curico. Curico is the city farthest away from Concepcion but it is also one of the most beautiful (also the hottest).  I am really excited to get to work with the missionaries and investigators there in Curico but I really dont want to leave Lirquén. I feel like I have done the best work in my mission up to this point here in Penco and I really hate having to say goodbye but it is just what happens in the mission. 
Well, that was my week. I know these next letters are going to be full of spiritual experiences and more stories of my amazing adventures. 
Well, I love you all a ton and good luck with everything that you all need to do.
Elder McNeil

September 12th

So it is great to know that this week was a little more relaxed and easier than the past few have been. It is also great hearing about BYU and UT. It would have been better if BYU won but its UT so I don't mind. It is also great to hear that all you are finally done going through all the hoops and red tape to finally get every thing set for the house. When is it expected to be finished? Also what is the address of the site (i want to google earth it)? Also feel free to send me pictures when ever to want of the family, the house, or anything else you want me to see.
So this week was a little tougher than the last few have been but we are expecting to have a baptism this Sunday which will be a great blessing for the ward. This Sunday also just happens to be the 18 of September which is Independence day here in Chile which means lots of parties, lots of asado (grilled meat), and EMPANADAS!!!!!!! I can't explain how much I love empanadas. They are incredible. Just ask Kerri, she'll agree with me.
We are really excited about our great investigators who are progressing but it has been a little hard to find new investigators to replace them so we are really focusing our efforts on finding again. It is really tough to find people in this sector but once you do, they progress really quickly. I love Lirquén a ton and it is going to be great to be here for the 18 de septiembre because this ward is great.
We wont know transfers until next week but there have been a lot of rumors going around the mission. President Humphrey actually has already prepared the cambios because a seventy is going to visit the mission this week and everyone is anxious to know about them. I try not to pay much attention to the rumors but if they are true, I will probably be leaving Lirquén. I really want to make sure this final week is really great because there are a lot of people who will be baptized in these next few weeks and I want to leave them prepared for whoever come next. Actually this week is going to drive me a little crazy because I am really anxious to know what will happen.
I am really happy to hear that you are all doing well and I hope things keep improving for all of you. Keep me informed on everything that is going on and I love you guys a ton.
Elder McNeil

September 5th

Well, I don't know how to feel right now. I am sitting in a internet cafe in another hemisphere writing my family on the other side of the World. The past year I have been in a foreign country, speaking a different language, working with people of different cultures, backgrounds, and faiths, some very different than my own. I have been talking to random people on the streets, going door to door, and visiting families to share the message of the restored gospel with anyone who will share just a few seconds with us. This has been the most memorable year of my life. I have learned a lot and I am so very grateful that the Lord chose me to take part in this work. I want to share a poem that I remember from years ago that explains an important principle I've learned in the mission.

The Lord works miracles
By using broken things.
The earth is broken by a plow,
And seeds are placed therein.
Rain is sent from broken clouds,
And crops begin to grow.
Grain is broken by a miller’s stone;
The flour is used in baking bread.
The covenants we have made,
We make again
When we partake of blessed
and broken bread.
Reminded, thus,
Of how our Lord was broken,
With broken hearts,
We show him we are His.
The Lord works miracles
By using broken things.

Karl Jackman

It might be hard to believe but I am not perfect (sorry for shattering your image of me, Mom). I have learned that sometimes we need to be humbled and every so-often we feel "broken down" or "used up". It is in those moments that the Lord can work the most incredible miracles through us. That is probably one of the most important things I've learned this last year and I am really excited to keep working in this marvelous for the rest of my time that I have left in this work. (If you didn't catch that, I will complete a year in Chile this week)
So I expected to hear unfortunate news about Grandma this week but I to a certain degree I'm relieved to know that she passed away peacefully and that there weren't any major complications. It is also great to know that the family was able to get together once again to celebrate the amazing woman who was so essential in bringing us into this world. I really hope that you will all of the chance to feel peace and tranquility in these next few weeks because from what I've heard in your emails, you haven't been able to relax in a very long time.
So as far as I'm doing. I'm doing great! We had a baptism (Andrea got baptised) this last weekend which was a great experience and we are going to have more in these next few weeks. This sector has had its ups and down but I love Lirquén and I will always keep it close to my heart. I am not sure how much time I will stay here for but I have a feeling that there will be some changes this next transfer and it is pretty possible that I will have to say goodbye to this wonderful place. Well, I have two more weeks before transfers so there is still a lot to do before I start thinking too much about that. An investigator, Ariel, told me that he is already making plans to prepare for a mission after he gets baptized which has probably been one of the highlights of my mission up to this point. Also his cousin, Hans, a recently reactivated member is preparing to baptism him and is also working on getting prepared for a mission. We are seeing miracles everyday. I am not perfect but the Lord really is blessing us with a lot of wonderful experiences and I would never pass up this opportunity for anything.
Mom, you sound like you are getting a little trunky. There is still plenty of time left for you to enjoy all the blessings of me being here in the mission. Take advantage of the chance to tell people how proud you are of your missionary son while you still have the chance. You wont be able to brag about your missionary grandchildren for many more years so these 10 months will be your last chance for about 20 years. I know how proud you are of your children and I am thankful to be one of them and I am especially grateful for everything you have done to get us to where we are in life. You are amazing Mom. I want you to know that.
I love you all a ton and I hope you all the best through all the challenges you have faced.
Elder McNeil

August 29th

So it sounds like things are progressing with the house. That is awesome!!! I am really excited to see that house be built. As far as Grandma goes. It is nice hearing your comments and seeing that you have the right attitude about it. I have met a lot of people here who have been angry and upset about the trials of a loved one to the point where they become bitter and hardhearted. Thanks for keeping the eternal perspective in all of these trials.
So, I would like you to know that we had an incredible week. We have found a lot of new investigators and we have a few baptisms already prepared for this next month. We have a girl named Andrea (the cousin of a recent convert) who might be baptized this saturday, a kid named Cristobal (the son of a less active Hermana), and Ariel who is the cousin a member who are all pretty set on getting baptized this month. We also have a number of good possibilities for these next few weeks too. It is so totally true that pacience brings blessings. These past few months have been the best months of my mission but also by far the most difficult. It is like I was rolling a boulder up hill and now we have just made it over the top and now I get the chance to watch it roll down the other side. Ariel is a great kid. He is 17 and the cousin of a member who has just recently been reactivated. He wants to be baptized incredibly badly and I can see him in the mission a year from his baptism.
Yesterday we had stake conference which was great and we were able to bring 4 investigators and 3 or so less active families and it was awesome. Also it was annouced during the conference that 18 year olds will now be able to leave on the mission. That was a pretty shocking announcement. We had a lot of youth who are now starting their papers to leave on the mission ASAP.
I love Lirquén. It is probably my favorite sector that I've had in the mission despite all the challenges. I also love the chance I have to work with my district. Every missionary has strengths and weeknesses and I feel like I have been able to relate to everyone of them in some way. I am a lot of weekness and being able to work with others helps me recognize where I need to improve and how I can help the district.
I love you guys so much but the mission is so important. Last week after reading your letter and hearing about grandma. I was sad and felt a little strange but then I just had an overwhelming feeling of "redeem the living while she starts here work redeeming the dead." After that, I have had probably one of the best weeks of my mission. I love that we have the gospel in our family and I owe that you and our grandparents and our long line of ancestors who have come before us. I am honored to take part in our long line of strong, loving, intelligent men and women. I might not change the world but I can at least change a life. That is our work as missionaries. Change lives, starting with our own.
I love you guys a ton and hope this week can be a good one for you.
Love r,
Elder McNeil

August 22nd

Hey family,
So, it sounds like last week was a really hard one for you guys. This is one of the emails I was waiting to receive from you and I am really grateful for the gospel which is going to help us through this difficult time in our family. I love the gospel and I know that Grandma is going to start a new phase of life were she will happily work in the work of the Lord. Please keep me informed about what is happening with Grandma. Also, if you have the chance, tell her that I love her a lot and am going to keep working hard to teach the wonderful message of the Atonement with the Chilean people.
If it makes you feel any better, this week went a lot better for me than the past few have, but there is a lot that needs to get done. We are finding a lot of people and I have really high hopes for a lot of the people that we have been working with. We am doing everything we possibly can to make sure that we can baptize this transfer and I know that we can do it with a lot of divine help. I have been trying really hard to set a good example for my district and have been having a lot of fun working with them and trying to help them as much as I can.
This week, as a zone activity, we went to the mall and went bowling. It is actually against the mission rules to go to the mall but because of the amount of baptisms last month, President Humphrey approved some more extreme zone activities. I ate pizza hut and went bowling for the first time in over a year and it was a pretty trunky experience. Now I understand why we aren't allowed to go there, it is just a haven for trunky missionaries.
It is great to hear that we will finally get this house started. I know that this is something you have been waiting for for a very long time and it is going to be great to get things started. Oh, just so you know, I just got my first of what I assume will be many wedding announcements from a friend of mine. I'm actually pretty impressed that I haven't seen more considering the time I have in the mission. Anyway, I love you all a lot and I am always praying for you.
Love ,
Elder McNeil

August 15th

So things have been going well for me here in Lirquén. Unfortunetly it seems like we are going to have to drop a number of our investigators and start over from ground zero with a few others but I know that this transfer we are going to baptize! It has been way too long since I've had a baptism and this transfer I am going all out (not that I wasn't before) but I just need to see something happen here. I need to feel like I am helping these people but when the people choose not to progress, how can I help them? After so much time working this hard without a baptism I feel like there must be something waiting down the road for me (hopefully soon). The Lord doesn't try us without finally blessing afterward. Well, I know that requires that we suport the trials well which I feel like I am doing okay but it is something I know we can always improve.
So I hope everything is going well for you there at home. I know that it is tough for you with your parents but they are old. This is what happens when people hit a certain age and each child feels the need to take care of them. Just be peacemakers and don't throw gasoline on the fire. Kerri, if he isn't your future husband, don't worry about breaking his heart. When his future wife comes along he will be grateful that you didn't give him the time of day. Actually I would be really grateful if a girl just told me straight up that she would rather check the other fish in the sea before making a decision. I know it is a tough thing to say, especially because you don't want to hurt his feelings but, what appears to be an evil, in the end is best for the common good. (My senior year of high school, I gave a speech on *outsourcing and said the same thing) *(This may or may not express the personal opinion of the writer about outsourcing, you decide.)
So it is great to hear that the boys from Austin are all grown up. I need to see it to believe it but Mike turned out okay so I assume they are all doing well. Cool story Dad about meeting up with an old friend from a long time ago.
Well I love you all tons and hope you are all doing well.
Love ,
Elder McNeil

August 8th

So this week we had transfers. Well, I wasn't transferred (I wasn't expecting to be transferred anyway) but I think you would like to know that I am now a District Leader. The phone call came from the zone leaders this morning and, well, here I go. The mission is always an adventure. I am really not sure what I've been doing but apparently the Lord and President Humphrey are pleased with it enough to give me these responsibilities, and I sure as heck am not going to turn down an opportunity to serve others. Now, my only real concern is if I am going to serve them well. I know that I need to improve in a lot of aspects of the work but I have a feeling that this is going to be a wonderful opportunity for growth.
This week was a little disappointing. Our fastest progressing investigator, Alejandro, is in the hospital. His appendix burst and the infection is looking pretty nasty. Our other investigators have also been having a few difficulties but Alejandro is one of our biggest concerns right now. His parents have been inactive for about 25 years and we are trying to help them as a family come back to church but, obviously they couldn't come this last week do to the what is happening with their son. Other than that, things are actually going okay but I am positive that with some good planning and diligent work, we are going to be able to achieve much more than what we have been.
So, I am not entirely sure what is going on there in the states as far as the economy goes but the news here in Chile is sure making it sound like the end of the world. I am just imagining the Statue of Liberty being blown up by aliens and zombies storming the White House. At least your letters have been fairly reassuring that I will come home to fairly regular life, not a nuclear wasteland. Mom, don't question why you were called to be what you are. The Lord obviously wants you to help these girls while you are still there in Willow Glenn. Do everything you can to serve the girls well in this time you have with them. Yes, they are demanding but that can't be any worse than I was as a teenager (I was the textbook definition of demanding.) I turned out okay and so will these girls.
Hopefully things move forward with the house. We will need it for when the stars start falling out of the skies and the oceans turn to blood (more Apocalypse movie references, sorry, I am having a little bit too much fun with that). I also hope Mike and Cabrina are doing well and it is going to be great for you to see Kerri again. This month I complete two whole years without seeing her. I imagine she hasn't changed much but, still, I might be forgeting what she looks like.
I love you all a ton and hope you are doing well,
Love ,
Elder McNeil

August 1st

So this week was really great but it would be nice if we could just skip what is left of winter and go straight to summer. The weather in Lirquèn is just so unpredictable so we are walking around in the sun with heavy waterproof jackets and rain boots and when it rains, we are wearing nothing but white shirts and V-neck sweaters. It is actually funny, I always have an umbrella in my bag and my scriptures are typically wrapped up in plastic bags and I always have earmuffs just in case it gets windy.
So I am really happy. This week was probably the most productive week I've had here in Lirquèn. We are finally seeing a lot of progress and we are seeing lots of miracles everyday. I really have learned a lot about patience and persistence here in this area and I know that there is a lot more to be learned. My comp is doing really well and I am really grateful to be training because I can see how he is developing and changing everyday. I am really excited for what lies ahead for me here in Lirquèn because I have been here for 3 months and am just now seeing how much the sector has changed since I've been here. I still haven't had any baptisms here but the Lord has blessed me in other ways (and the baptisms are coming).
I hope you have been able to see changes in who I am through my emails because I feel like I have changed a lot since I've been a missionary. I haven't started eating cats, but I did eat that entire package that you less than a week.
Well, I love you tons. I hope that life is treating you well and I am always praying for you.
Love ,
Elder McNeil